Dreaming of Living the Ranch Lifestyle?

Key considerations for building a legacy ranch in the Rocky Mountain West
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Photos courtesy of Ranch Land – Architecture and Environment

Have you always dreamed of establishing your own legacy in the West? Building a multi-generational family retreat? Experiencing outdoor recreation from your private sporting paradise?

Then you are dreaming of living the ranch lifestyle.

Aside from peaceful seclusion and endless adventures, owning a ranch can also mean agricultural production, nature conservation and an investment in the land for future generations.

In the wake of the current pandemic, many people are looking to leave high-density areas to embrace life on the land—in order to provide safety, security and sustainability for their families. Especially now, living miles away from your nearest neighbor is an appealing benefit of ranch ownership.

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If you are ready to turn your dream into reality, here are some key considerations for building a legacy ranch in the Rocky Mountain West.

1. Find the Perfect Ranch Property

To find the perfect property, it is important to consider location, access, acreage and land use. From working farms to retreats, cabins and lodges, there are many types of ranches in the Rocky Mountains—so you should first determine your vision.

While managing a cattle ranch in Montana might appeal to some, you may prefer fly-fishing for Colorado trout or horseback riding through your Wyoming mountain retreat. No matter your interests, there is a property perfectly suited for you.

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2. Assemble Your Team

Once you have found the perfect ranch property, you can enlist the help of specialists to guide you in identifying and achieving your priorities. These professionals can then mobilize their teams in a thoughtful and planned direction.

3. Evaluate and Protect the Resources

With your team of experts on board, the next step is to evaluate the natural resources on your property—including land, water, vegetation and wildlife habitats and how they interrelate.

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It may not surprise you that water rights can be very complicated. There’s an old saying out West: “Whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting over.” Water in the arid West is more precious than gold, and in some cases may be more valuable than the land itself. Since it is so precious, there are countless rules and regulations governing its use. Before you do anything to change how, when or where you use water on your property, it is important to seek professionals with expertise in this area.

You may also want to consider a conservation easement, which contains permanent restrictions on the use or development of your land in order to protect the open space, water, and wildlife habitats for the enjoyment of future generations.

4. Make Architectural Improvements

Whether it’s new construction or renovations, any architectural improvements you make can significantly increase the value of your property.

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Old ranch buildings that have outlived their original use can be repurposed, while retaining the historic features and charm. Preservation of the existing structures also benefits the environment by conserving natural resources and minimizing the need for new materials.

Of course one of the most iconic structures of a ranch are the entry gates, so be sure the design is unique to your legacy. Entry gate designs range from traditional western gates incorporating the ranch brand to more contemporary styles.

5. Take Outdoor Living to the Next Level

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There is no doubt that one of the biggest benefits of ranch ownership is the private access to outdoor living and recreation. There are so many architectural and environmental features you can add to your ranch to elevate the experience of these activities, but here are just a few ideas to consider.

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Enjoy the great outdoors up close by creating trails for hiking, horseback riding or all-terrain vehicles. To take advantage of the breathtaking views, construct a pavilion, boathouse, rooftop deck, or gathering area with a fire pit and water features. If you envision sleeping under the stars but don’t love roughing it, you can also add a glamping area for a relaxing retreat.

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If your focus is on horses, then a horse barn is a key element. Some barns are so beautifully finished that they can double as a venue to host events. Other equestrian must-haves include an elevated viewing platform and an outdoor riding arena that can serve as rodeo grounds for western riding or barrel racing.

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For the avid fisherman, you can build ponds and lakes specifically designed for fisheries, make habitat improvements to natural streams and rivers, and even develop recirculating stream channels to provide the ideal fishing environment.


If wildlife is your interest, you can attract and increase desirable species through specific agricultural and timber management, planting food plots, protecting travel corridors and secure habitat areas, and creating breeding and nesting areas. You can also construct viewing blinds (a camouflaged shelter) to promote close encounters with wildlife without disturbing them. Specific plans depend on the region, existing habitats and species of interest—so a qualified wildlife biologist is an indispensable resource when planning future conditions on your ranch.

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Many people dream of living the ranch lifestyle. With these ideas and considerations—and the help of ranch specialists—you are ready to turn your ranch dream into reality.

Tom Cole is a Principal/Architect of Ranch Land – Architecture and Environment, a Colorado-based company that specializes in ranch planning, improvements and environmental solutions. View their profile or contact Tom at tom@ranchandland.us or 970.401.3066.

Content for this article provided by Ranch Land – Architecture and Environment.

Categories: Native Content, Outdoor Living